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John Goodenough: Co-creator of the lithium-ion battery

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology


Source: TH

 Context: John Goodenough, the Nobel Prize-winning co-creator of the lithium-ion battery, passed away at the age of 100.


Goodenough, Whittingham and Yoshino received Nobel Prize in 2019 for Chemistry. Each had unique breakthroughs that laid the foundation for developing a commercial rechargeable battery.


  • The 1970s: Whittingham: Whittingham’s work in the 1970s harnessed the tendency of lithium — the lightest metal — to give away its electrons to make a battery capable of generating just over two volts.
  • The 1980s: Goodenough had built on Whittingham’s work and doubled the battery’s capacity to four volts by using cobalt oxide in the cathode, one of the two electrodes that make up the ends of a battery.
  • The 1980s: Yoshino: That battery remained too explosive for general commercial use. Yoshino’s work in the 1980s eliminated the volatile pure lithium from the battery and instead opted for lithium ions that are safer. The first lightweight, safe, durable and rechargeable commercial batteries entered the market in 1991.
  • In 2017, Goodenough led a team of engineers to develop the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.


Significance: Li-ion batteries revolutionized technology by providing rechargeable power for various devices such as cellphones, computers, and electric cars.


Working Principle of Li-ion batteries:

Lithium-ion batteries work based on the movement of lithium ions between two electrodes, the cathode (positive electrode) and the anode (negative electrode), through an electrolyte. When the battery is being charged, lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode, where they are stored. During discharge, the ions move back to the cathode, creating an electric current that can power devices.


Difference between Sold-State Batteries and Lithium-Ion Batteries:

Solid-State BatteriesLithium-Ion Batteries
Use solid-state electrolytes, which are non-flammable and saferUse liquid or gel electrolytes, which can be flammable
Offer higher energy density, allowing for a longer driving rangeTypically have lower energy density compared to solid-state batteries
Faster-charging capabilityCharging time is relatively longer
Longer cycle lifeTypically have a limited number of charging cycles
Can be made using earth-friendly materialsRelies on the use of lithium, which may have supply concerns
Require further development and commercializationWidely used in portable electronic devices and electric vehicles
Higher cost due to the use of advanced materialsRelatively lower cost and mature manufacturing processes



It’s important to note that solid-state batteries are still in the development and research phase, while lithium-ion batteries are widely used in various industries. Both Solid-state and lithium batteries hold great promise for the future and are a testament to John Goodenough’s work.


Insta Links:

 New Electric Vehicle Batteries


Mains Links

Lithium-ion batteries are the edifice of the wireless technology revolution. In this context discuss the significance and challenges facing these rechargeable Lithium Batteries. (250 words)


Prelims Links

With reference to ‘fuel cells’ in which hydrogen-rich fuel and oxygen are used to generate electricity, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2015)


  1. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the fuel cell emits heat and water as by-products.
  2. Fuel cells can be used for powering buildings and not for small devices like laptop computers.
  3. Fuel cells produce electricity in the form of Alternating Current (AC).


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3



Answer: A


A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity (in the form of Direct Current). It can be used for powering the building as well as small devices (micro fuel cells). Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging. They produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.